4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/01/2008   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Landscape trends >> Biodiversity

Image: kookaburraBIODIVERSITY


Parks and protected areas

Australia employs the World Conservation Union (IUCN) definition of a protected area. The system of protected area categories applied in Australia has six levels:
  • Category IA - Strict Nature Reserve: Protected Area managed mainly for science.
  • Category IB - Wilderness Area: Protected Area managed mainly for wilderness protection.
  • Category II - National Park: Protected Area managed mainly for ecosystem conservation and recreation.
  • Category III - Natural Monument: Protected Area managed for conservation of specific natural features.
  • Category IV - Habitat/Species Management Area: Protected Area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention.
  • Category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape: Protected Area managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation.
  • Category VI - Managed Resource Protected Areas: Protected Area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

From 2000 to 2004, Australia’s terrestrial protected areas increased by more than 19 million hectares and now extend across almost 81 million hectares or 10.5% of Australia. Protected areas include botanic gardens, national parks and fish habitat areas.

Parks and protected areas, area
Graph: Parks and protected areas, area
Note: 2000 data for Category III too small to show.
Source: Department of the Environment and Water Resources, CAPAD, <http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/nrs/capad/index.html>, last viewed 7 September 2007.

Threatened fauna species

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) classifies listed threatened species into six categories - extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and conservation dependent.

At the commencement of the EPBC Act in 2000, the list of threatened fauna consisted only of those previously listed under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992. For the purpose of this publication, this data has been presented against the year 2000.

Threatened fauna species
Graph: Threatened fauna species
(a) Includes the category ‘extinct in the wild’.
Note: The graph shows the number of species listed under the EPBC Act as at October 2007. If a species had been included in a different category prior to 2007 only the 2007 categorisation is shown. If a species has been removed from the list since 2000, then it is not included in this graph. The category ‘conservation dependant’ is not shown since figures are too small to show.
Source: Department of the Environment and Water Resources, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity > last viewed October 2007.

Since the introduction of the EPBC Act, the number of threatened fauna rose by nearly 25% from 318 to 399 in 2007. Almost half (49%) were vulnerable, 32% were endangered, and 14% were presumed extinct or extinct in the wild in 2007. Birds and mammals accounted for the majority of vulnerable and endangered species, and half of extinct species were mammals. However, these increases may reflect taxonomic revisions, curation of collections, data-basing information and field investigations and do not necessarily represent a change in the conservation status of the fauna.

LIST OF THREATENED FAUNA, 2007
CategoryFauna type

ExtinctFrogs (4)
Birds (23)
Mammals (27)
Extinct in the wildFishes (1)
Critically EndangeredFishes (3)
Frogs (2)
Reptiles (1)
Birds (6)
Mammals (3)
Other animals (5)
EndangeredFishes (16)
Frogs (13)
Reptiles (13)
Birds (40)
Mammals (33)
Other animals (11)
VulnerableFishes (24)
Frogs (12)
Reptiles (38)
Birds (62)
Mammals (54)
Other animals (6)
Conservation dependentFishes (1)
Mammals (1)
TotalFauna (399)

Source: Department of the Environment and Water Resources, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity> last viewed October 2007.


Threatened flora species


The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) classifies listed threatened species into six categories - extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and conservation dependent. At the commencement of the EPBC Act, the list of threatened flora consistent only of those previously listed under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992. For the purpose of this publication this data has been presented against the year 2000.

Since the introduction of the EPBC Act, the number of listed threatened flora rose by 12% from 1,156 in 2000 to 1,298 in October 2007. Of the eucalypts, 23 species were listed as endangered and 49 species were listed as vulnerable. Two species of wattle were listed as extinct; 3 as critically endangered; 28 as endangered; and 44 as vulnerable.
Variations to the list under the EPBC Act can be made by the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Water Resources following consideration of their conservation status by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. Thus changes need to be treated cautiously. Species can be removed or added because of improved knowledge or sometimes new species are discovered, or those thought to be extinct are rediscovered.

To assist the conservation of listed threatened species, the EPBC Act provides for: the identification of key threatening processes, the registration and conservation of critical habitat, and the making of: recovery plans; threat abatement plans; wildlife conservation agreements and conservation orders.

Threatened flora species
Graph: Threatened flora species
(a) Includes the category 'extinct in the wild'.
Note: The graph shows the number of species listed under the EPBC Act as at October 2007. If a species had been included in a different category prior to 2007 only the 2007 categorisation is shown. If a species has been removed from the list since 2000, then it is not included in this graph. The category ‘conservation dependant’ is not shown since figures are too small to show on graph.
Source: Department of the Environment and Water Resources, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity > last viewed October 2007.


Threatened ecological communities


Another measure of environmental condition includes recording the number of ecological communities threatened with extinction. Scientific committees examine the case for listing ecological communities. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) classifies listed threatened communities into three categories -critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable.

The listed communities are not necessarily the only ones in danger of extinction. To be listed a community must undergo significant investigation and survey work as part of the assessment of the scientific committee, but it is likely that other communities are also under threat of extinction.

The number of threatened communities rose from 21 in 2000 to 38 in 2007. However, these increases may reflect improved information and field investigations and do not necessarily represent a change in conservation status of ecological communities. Of those listed as critically endangered three are in New South Wales, two in Queensland and three in South Australia. Of those listed as endangered five are in New South Wales, one each in Victoria and Queensland and 16 in Western Australia. The only community listed as vulnerable is in Tasmania. Additionally, five endangered communities and one critically endangered community cross state borders.

The EPBC Act protects Australia's native species and ecological communities by providing for:
  • identification and listing of species and ecological communities as threatened
  • development of conservation advice and recovery plans for listed species and ecological communities
  • development of a register of critical habitat
  • recognition of key threatening processes
  • where appropriate, reducing the impacts of these processes through threat abatement plans.

Threatened ecological communities
Graph Threatened ecological communities
Note: The graph shows the number of ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act as at October 2007. If a community had been included in a different category prior to 2007 only the 2007 categorisation is shown. If a community has been removed from the list since 2000, then it is not included in this graph.
Source: Department of the Environment and Water Resources, <http://www.environment.gov.au/
biodiversity > last viewed July 2007.

Register of critical habitat

The Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Water Resources may identify and list habitat critical to the survival of a listed threatened species or ecological community. Details of this identified habitat will be recorded in a Register of Critical Habitat.

The first listings were made in 2002 for the habitat of three species of albatross. Macquarie Island, Albatross Island, The Mewstone and Pedra Branca are four major breeding locations for these species which are under Australian jurisdiction. These three species of albatross are listed as vulnerable fauna under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

It should be noted that habitat critical to the survival of a species or ecological community will depend largely on the particular requirements of the threatened species or ecological community concerned. For example, areas only incidentally used by a threatened species, and which the species is unlikely to be dependent upon for its survival or recovery, may not be areas of habitat critical to the survival of that particular species.
The identification of critical habitat for the Register of Critical Habitat, including location and extent information, is a matter of ecological judgment, and is based on the most up-to-date scientific information available to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Water Resources at the time the habitat was being considered. As new or additional information becomes available, critical habitat identified on the Register may be amended.

The Minister must, when making or adopting a recovery plan, consider whether to list habitat that is identified in the recovery plan as being critical to the survival of the species or ecological community. There is no legal provision for public nomination of Critical Habitat.

NUMBER ON REGISTER OF CRITICAL HABITAT
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007

Number
0
0
3
3
4
5
5
5




LIST OF CRITICAL HABITAT

Effective DateCritical Habitat

2002Diomedea exulans (Wandering Albatross) - Macquarie Island
Thalassarche cauta (Shy Albatross) - Albatross Island, The Mewstone, Pedra Branca
Thalassarche chrysostoma (Grey-headed Albatross) - Macquarie Island
2004Manorina melanotis (Black-eared Miner) - Gluepot Reserve, Taylorville Station and Calperum Station, South Australia, excluding the area of Calperum Station south and east of Main Wentworth Road
2005Lepidium ginninderrense (Ginninderra Peppercress) - Northwest corner Belconnen Naval Transmission Station, ACT


Source: Data compiled from the Environment and Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) - Register of critical habitat, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity> last viewed July 2007.

Threatening processes

The number of listed key threatening processes has increased from 6 in 2000 to 17 in 2007. However, the increase may reflect improved reporting and knowledge and does not necessarily reflect an increase in the occurrence of key threatening processes.

A process is defined as a key threatening process if it threatens, or may threaten, the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community (for example predation by the European red fox).

A process can be listed as a key threatening process if it could cause a native species or ecological community to become eligible for adding to a threatened list (other than conservation dependent), or cause an already listed threatened species or threatened ecological community to become more endangered, or if it adversely affects two or more listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities.

The assessment of a threatening process as a key threatening process is the first step under law enacted by the Australian Government to address the impact of a particular threat. Once a threatening process is listed under the EPBC Act, a Threat Abatement Plan can be put into place if it is proven to be 'a feasible, effective and efficient way' to abate the threatening process.

LISTED KEY THREATENING PROCESSES
Effective DateListed Key Threatening Processes

2000
  • Competition and land degradation by feral goats
  • Competition and land degradation by feral rabbits
  • Predation by feral cats
  • Predation by the European red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
  • Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi)
  • Incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations
2001
  • Land clearance
  • Loss of climatic habitat caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Incidental catch (bycatch) of sea turtle during coastal otter-trawling operations within Australian waters north of 28 degrees South
  • Predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs
  • Psittacine Circoviral (beak and feather) disease affecting psittacine species
2002
  • Infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis
2003
  • Injury and fatality to vertebrate marine life caused by ingestion of, or entanglement in, harmful marine debris
  • The reduction in the biodiversity of Australian native fauna and flora due to the red imported fire ant, Soloenopsis invicta (fire ant)
2005
  • Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity following invasion by the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean
  • The biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by cane toad (Bufo marinus)
2006
  • Predation by exotic rats on Australian offshore islands of less than 1000 km2 (100,000 ha)

Source: Data compiled from the Environment and Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) - Listed key threatening processes, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity> last viewed July 2007.

Recovery plans

The Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Water Resources may make or adopt and implement recovery plans for threatened fauna, threatened flora (other than conservation dependent species) and threatened ecological communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Before making a recovery plan, the Minister must consult with the appropriate Minister of each state and territory in which the species or ecological community occurs, consider advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Community, invite public comment on the plan, and consider all comments received regarding the proposed plan.

Recovery plans set out the research and management actions required to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, listed threatened species and ecological communities. Recovery plans aim to maximise the long-term survival in the wild of species and communities. The plans outline what is to be done to protect and restore important populations of threatened species and ecological communities, as well as how to reduce and manage threatening processes.

Recovery plans provide a logical and planned framework for key interest groups and responsible government agencies to coordinate their work. Plans remain in force until and unless the flora or fauna species or ecological community is removed from the threatened list.

The graph shows the number of recovery plans listed under the EPBC Act by the year they were listed, as at October 2007. The current list of recovery plans covered approximately 450 species and ecological communities through 384 plans.

It should be noted that recovery plans made under the EPBC Act are Australian Government recovery plans. State and territory governments may also make and adopt recovery plans, and the counts of these are not included in the figures presented here.


Recovery plans made or adopted, cumulative total
Graph: Recovery plans made or adopted, cumulative total


RECOVERY PLANS MADE OR ADOPTED, per year

2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007

Recovery plans made or adopted in each year
17
89
26
24
76
84
57
11

Source: Data compiled from the Environment and Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) - Recovery plans made or adopted, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity> last viewed July 2007.


Previous Page